A greener world
Written by Scarlett Regan, Researcher
Edited by Tom Gillingham, Associate Partner
For the last few days, I have been woken unfailingly at 5am by birds cheeping and chirping outside my window. It is a bit early, but I try my best to find it charming. Our bird feeder empties faster than we can fill it. Admittedly, I have seen a couple of fat pigeons at it.
The sky actually looks bluer, but maybe my eyes are just going funny. I live in London, so this influx of nature is a rare phenomenon.
With millions of people in the UK working remotely, there is considerably less travel going on. My new favourite nerdy webpage is the Citymapper Mobility Index, which displays, for a whole host of cities globally, the percentage of movement relative to their norms. London is currently sitting at 10%. I certainly don’t miss standing crammed between armpits on the Central line.
The various lockdowns across the globe have caused a remarkable drop in air pollution levels. Residents in the northern Indian state of Punjab have reported being able to see the Himalayas for the first time in decades. Sadly, though, reports of dolphins in the Venice canals have been deemed false by the National Geographic.
This week, experts have said that a link is plausible between high nitrogen oxide levels and increased risk of coronavirus deaths. The climate crisis is quietly revealing itself as a public health emergency too.
It’s quite striking how drastically all things environmental have dropped off the news agenda, but the climate crisis is still a crisis. A huge one.
When we restart the economy, it will be all too tempting to do things as fast as possible, which would mean using oil and a whole load of plastic. Fighting climate change must not be viewed as inimical to growth; businesses and governments need to integrate climate goals into their strategic planning. Take South Korea, for example, which is embracing a ‘green new deal’ for its coronavirus recovery.
In the midst of this crisis is our opportunity to prevent another one.
So, on the pollution-free dawn of this fiftieth Earth Day, perhaps we can commit to a green recovery for all, despite the challenges ahead. Today is the time to decide not to go back to a climate-damaging normal.
The government is facing fresh questions over the time it took to join an EU scheme to source medical equipment. The row comes as a senior civil servant retracted claims yesterday that the UK had made a “political decision” not to join the scheme. Brussels sources have said that the UK had plenty of time to take part. An investigation continues into the UK’s missed opportunity to bulk buy ventilators, protective equipment and testing kits.
A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed at Oxford University will have its first human trials tomorrow, after receiving £20m in government funding. The government is also funding a trial at Imperial College, health secretary Matt Hancock revealed at yesterday’s press briefing. He admitted that success is not certain. (£)
David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme (WFP), has warned of widespread famines “of biblical proportions” within a few months. A report suggests that the number suffering from hunger could increase from 135 million to more than 250 million; those most at risk live in ten countries ravaged by conflict and climate change. Addressing the UN Security Council, Beasley emphasised the need to “act widely and act fast”.
Business and economy
According to a survey published by the British Chambers of Commerce, 71 per cent of businesses have furloughed staff, up from 66 per cent last week. This comes as the job retention portal went live on Monday. The survey also revealed that businesses are very concerned about cash flow, with six in ten having less than three months’ worth of cash reserves.
More than 1.5 million people in the UK have applied for universal credit since social distancing measures were introduced. This marks a six-fold increase in the average number, since March 16th. It further evidences the scale of the economic shutdown and hints at an arduous recovery. (£)
Scotland’s retailers have suffered a record fall in sales due to the crisis: a “shocker” of a month, according to industry leaders. The Scottish Retail Consortium KPMG sales monitor found that sales of non-food items fell by roughly a third in the last month, with fashion and footwear collapsing. Although this was partially offset by significant stockpiling of groceries, the overall performance of retailers has been hit hard by the crisis.
Columns of note
In The Guardian, Alastair Campbell writes that with so many coronavirus fatalities, Labour should not be holding back. Keir Starmer is both cursed and blessed to become leader in the midst of a pandemic, but he should play it to his strengths. His forensic, consensus-seeking qualities are well-suited to such a crisis, so he must develop his own ideas about an exit strategy to show that he has answers as well as questions. Now is the time to show that a credible alternative government exists.
In The Atlantic, Yasmeen Serhan looks at how the India-China relationship has been put under immense strain by the coronavirus crisis, and that Indians now see Beijing as the problem rather than the solution. Anti-China sentiment is soaring just as this month marks 70 years of diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Some Indians are distrustful of Beijing’s word on the scale of the crisis, for example. This is a fascinating piece which gives well-evidenced insight into the current Indian sentiment. (£)
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
What happened yesterday?
The US oil price fell below zero for the first time in history. The absence of demand for oil means that there is simply too much oil and not enough storage capacity for it, leaving producers to pay buyers to store it elsewhere. At its lowest point yesterday, the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate traded at -$40.32 a barrel.
Brent Crude, which is drawn from the North Sea, was also down by 22% at $19.71, the lowest level since 2002.
These dramatic falls comes despite an Opec deal to cut around 10% of global crude supply. It will likely come as a blow to US president Donald Trump, who has tried to protect the oil industry by pledging support for the sector.
The S&P 500 closed down 1.8%, and the energy sector down 3.3%.
In Europe, markets were more stable: the Stoxx 600 closed 0.7% higher and the FTSE 100, up 0.5%.
In company news:
Former bosses of John Lewis and Waitrose are being handed payoffs of nearly £1 million each, as the retailer warns of more redundancies. 75 jobs were recently scrapped in the head office, and 400 at Waitrose.
High-street retailer Cath Kidston made 900 workers redundant after shutting all 60 of its UK shops. The business has been sold back to Baring Private Equity Asia in a pre-pack process. The brand will continue to trade online, with roughly 30 staff running this operation.
What's happening today?
Rtw Venture Fu.
Pgit Secs 2020
UK Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index
(07:00) Retail Price Index
(07:00) Producer Price Index
Int. economic announcements
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Did you know?
Geological markers for the 20th century will likely be nuclear waste, plastic, and giant snails.
House of Commons
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Membership of the Liaison Committee – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
Membership of the Scottish Affairs Committee – Bill Wiggin
House of Lords
Impact of COVID-19 on the Government’s Overseas Development Assistance spending priorities in 2020-21 and beyond – virtual proceeding – Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
Appointment of a SheDecides champion – virtual proceeding – Baroness Sheehan
Impact of the restriction of movement on those defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 – virtual proceeding – Lord Blunkett
Lessons learned from the experience of Switzerland, Germany and the US in ensuring businesses have easy access to Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans – virtual proceeding – Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill – Second reading – Baroness Barran
Stage 3 Proceedings
Consumer Scotland Bill